It’s Friday again, and we’ve got a fresh catch of democracy, civic tech and smart city news ready for you!

As you know (unless you’re new here, in which case: hi!), we craft a new selection of must-reads every single week. You can find them in all their glory on our blog.

So what do we have for you this week? Amongst other things, we’ve got stops in Africa, Japan, SimCity, and humankind’s final destination: old age! So let’s dive into the best reads of this past week.

1. “Smart tech is the new tool for African farmers” by TheCitizen

The digital revolution is in full force and reaches even the smallest, most remote regions of Africa. Qualified young Africans are spotting a lot of opportunities in developing the agriculture of what is often dubbed as ‘the continent of the future’.

And that name doesn’t seem far-fetched at all if you see the initiatives these young entrepreneurs are setting up. Connecting school canteens and farming cooperatives to lower the cost of school meals? Developing apps that count crops and predict the harvest? Finding ways to operate irrigation systems with one click of a (mobile) button? The future is here!

A must-read if you’re interested in smart tech and the good it can do in this world.

2. “Analysis of old people’s civic participation” by the University of Barcelona for Phys.Org

Participation makes citizens feel heard, and that’s something we all crave. But did you know that citizen participation actually has tangible biological benefits? In older people, participation has been linked to increased cognitive function and both physical and mental well-being.

The available evidence shows civic participation has a positive impact on physical and psychological health as well as the quality of life of the participants, so it not only improves the community but the life of those who take part in it,” quotes the article. It further explores the diversity of the sample audience, the motivations for older people to participate, and the barriers they encounter.

A must-read when you’re a participation enthusiast, or when you’re curious to see how participation affects people in all seasons of life.

! Tip: A combination of offline and online participation often works wonders to involve older people. Discover how Flemish municipalities Mol and Temse did it.

3. “Offering Childcare at City Meetings May Be Key to Diversifying Civic Engagement” by R. Ritzel for NextCity

The mayor of Ithaca, New York, noticed something specific about the town meetings. “The city looks different than the meeting room. [The city is] a lot younger and it’s less white.”

In an attempt to work with a more representative group of citizens, this local government came up with policies to appeal to a wider audience.
One of those policies is to offer childcare at the town meetings to make it easier for young parents to participate in local governance. Now, other cities and municipalities are toying with the idea as well.

A must-read for local governments looking to make their participation efforts more inclusive. Sometimes it can be as easy as installing a rocking horse.

4. “Why Fukuoka is Japan’s most innovative city” by E. Gent for BBC

Situated in the west of Japan lies a hub of innovation ready to hatch. Fukuoka, the country’s fastest-growing urban centre, is looking to become the Eastern Silicon Valley and does so by investing in start-ups.

“The presence of start-ups which create new innovation and value is necessary to break economic stagnation,” says mayor Takashima. “With that in mind, I positioned start-up support as our city’s growth strategy.”

This way, Fukuoka appears to be the ideal match for young and ambitious entrepreneurs aiming to escape Tokyo’s rat race and explore their possibilities in a city that supports their endeavours. Not a bad way to put your city on the map.

A must-read for anyone with an entrepreneurial bone in their body, or anyone who’s curious to see how city support can make a community thrive.

5. “SimCity Showed Us Brilliant Civic Tech Interfaces 30 Years Ago. We Should Build Them for Real Now” by D. Balkind for Gotham Gazette

This opinion piece will hit you right in the nostalgia. Did you spend your off-time as a kid building virtual cities for your community of ‘Sims’ to live? Even if you didn’t, SimCity was a revelation in the early days of the internet, and according to Balkind, the game could be a solid foundation for the way cities are created today.

To apply the SimCity way of city planning to say, New York City, there are some organizational challenges to overcome. But the author still believes that a “SimNYCity” would make a valuable contribution to public life. From interactive maps, citizen-driven budgets and opinion-polling, many of the 90’s game’s popular features are now part of participatory democracies.

A must-read for everyone who built online cities after school, but also those curious to see how cities can develop and improve.

That’s it for our weekly e-date! If you’re ready for more, check out our previous selections on the blog, download our brand-new comprehensive e-guide on participatory budgeting, or contact our experts to get started with digital participation in your city!

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